Sun signs StarOffice bundling deals with four PC makers

Sun Microsystems Inc. this week announced that Gateway Inc. and three other PC makers have agreed to preinstall its StarOffice personal productivity software on some of their machines.

The deals disclosed Wednesday involve StarOffice 5.2, the latest release of Sun's rival to Microsoft Corp.'s market-leading Office software. Sun said Gateway plans to put StarOffice 5.2 on its desktop and notebook PCs for Sun customers. In addition, Sony Corp., Everex Systems Inc. and eMachines Inc. will bundle the software on selected PC models.

StarOffice, which runs on Windows and Linux in addition to Sun's own Solaris version of Unix, includes word processing, spreadsheet, graphics presentation, drawing and photo editing applications. Sun claims to have distributed 15 million copies of StarOffice, close to 3 million of which have been downloaded from the company's Web site.

But Susan Grabau, Sun's StarOffice product line manager, said the bundling deals should extend the software's reach so it can better compete with Microsoft Office.

The agreements with Gateway, Sony and the other vendors are a step in the right direction for Sun, agreed Chris Le Tocq, an analyst at Gartner Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn. However, LeTocq said he doubts the new partnerships will have much impact on Microsoft's sales of Office.

"For Gateway, [StarOffice] is there and users will load it up if they want to, but it's no big deal," Le Tocq said. A substantial marketing effort by Sun and the PC makers would be required in order to have much effect on the office software market, he added.

A Gateway representative said the company's deal with Sun will ensure that its PC buyers have a low-cost option for office and personal applications. Meanwhile, Rich Black, a Sony spokesman, said the Japanese company only plans to bundle StarOffice on entry-level desktops, not on its laptop computers.

Black said StarOffice is a complete set of applications, but he added that Microsoft Word and other components of Office appeal to users in search of more advanced functionality. "We're going after different customers with the [different office suites]," Black said.

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